‘We know how badly this could have ended’: Police say public stepped up to help locate abducted girl

Springfield police say help from the public played a major role in the safe recovery of a missing 11-year-old girl who was snatched off the street as she walked home from the bus stop in Springfield on Wednesday and the capture of their suspect.

“The biggest factor in this was the tips from the public,” Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood said during a news conference. “People were out looking for this car, it was amazing. Civilians spotted this car and helped us out immensely.”

Claprood said state troopers responding to numerous reports from drivers who spotted the suspect vehicle recovered the 11-year-old following a traffic stop on the eastbound side of the Mass. Pike in Sturbridge.

The driver, Miguel Rodriguez, 24, of Springfield, has been taken into custody in connection with her abduction.

Police say he is known to them.

“We know how badly this could have ended up,” Claprood said. “He was evil and he had her for nefarious reasons.”

Although she was uninjured, police say she is being evaluated by EMTs as a precaution.

“I did have a conversation with her and she is an amazing little girl. I couldn’t believe how she kept it all together just speaking with us,” a trooper who helped rescue her said. “It’s amazing. I can’t believe how strong she was dealing with this”

Her family and loved ones let out squeals of joy upon hearing the news she was found.

“I can’t stress enough, that if we hadn’t put all these resources and we didn’t have all the help we had to recover her as quickly as we recovered, this could be a very different press release tomorrow,” Claprood said.

The girl was last seen being forced into a car by a white or Hispanic man in the area of Princeton and Amherst streets around 1:30 p.m., state police said.

In surveillance footage captured on Tuesday, the girl is seen walking home and the Honda Civic later wanted in her abduction is seen following behind her at a distance.

Julius Kenney and his wife saw the abduction and called police as soon as the car took off.

“I heard my wife screaming in the house. I ran to the kitchen I thought somebody was breaking in,” Kenney said. “She said, ‘No somebody is grabbing the daughter of our neighbor.”

Claprood added, “Captain Duda and I have been doing this for quite a few years. Once we realized what we had we knew that time was of the essence. This was not the kind of case that we could go home or that we could hand over or we could say, ‘We’ll continue this in the morning.’ This was an absolute life and death situation for this little girl.”

A white or light-skinned woman was said to be behind the wheel of the suspect vehicle, though it’s unclear whether police are searching for her.

Anyone with information is asked to call state police.

This is a developing news story; stay with 7NEWS on-air and online for the latest details.

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